An LDO or low-dropout regulator is a DC (Direct Current) voltage regulator that has the ability to regulate the output voltage when the difference between input voltage and output voltage is low. Typically an LDO offers a "dropout" (difference between input and output voltage) of less than 0.3V whereas a standard linear voltage regulator offers a dropout voltage of 1 Volt or more. An LDO finds its use in different industries based on certain characteristics such as the LDO’s drop-out voltage, line regulation, speed (how fast it can respond as the load varies), load regulation, quiescent current, and maximum current (which is decided by the size of the pass transistor), among others. Generating 3.3 V from 3.6 V (Li-Ion battery) needs a much lower difference between input and output voltage (less than 300 mV). Applications such as these, require the use of a low-dropout regulator to achieve the lower dropout voltage required. However, under steady state operating conditions (equilibrium condition of a circuit or a network), an LDO behaves like a simple resistor.
The rise in demand of LDOs is due to its increased use in consumer electronics, and circuitry such as microprocessors and microcontrollers, among others. Additionally, increased consumer affinity towards portable and wireless application at a global level, is also fueling the growth of the LDO industry. However, rising cost of raw materials needed, and high expenses on efficiency maintenance, are the major restraint that could hinder the growth of the industry.
The demand for low-dropout voltage regulators in the global market is expected to increase at a steady pace owing to the growing demand of the product in various industries such as telecommunication, aircraft, and cellular phones. Asia Pacific is likely to show the highest growth in the LDO market during the forecast period from 2016 to 2024.
The low-dropout regulator market can be segmented based on application and geography. Based on application, the low-dropout regulator market is classified into LDOs for digital loads, LDOs for analog loads, and LDOs for RF (Radio Frequency) loads. Digital LDOs are designed to save energy with low Iq (quiescent current). LDOs leads to increased battery life as portable systems have long periods of low-power operation when the software is idling. When the systems are inactive LDOs are shut down and consume less than 1 µA. LDOs for DSPs (Digital Signal Processing) and microcontrollers have to work with good efficiency and handle high and rapidly varying currents. Noise reduction and supply-noise rejection are two of the most sought after characteristics of components used in wireless systems. It can be achieved by care and ingenuity in the LDO’s internal design. Their low dropout voltage and low quiescent current make them a good fit for portable and wireless applications.
On the basis of geography, the low-dropout regulator market can be segmented into North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, and Rest of the World. The rising demand in consumer electronics, wireless devices, and portable battery powered appliances market would probably lead to the increase in demand of low-dropout regulators market. Asia Pacific is expected to be the fastest growing market for low-dropout regulators. The technological advancement in countries such as China, South Korea, and Taiwan coupled with cheap labor and favorable economic conditions, is likely to add to the factors responsible for growth in the Asia Pacific region.
There are many players in the low-dropout regulator industry. Key companies include Maxim (U.S), Linear ((U.S), Rohm (Japan), Texas Instruments (U.S), STMicroelectronics (France), and Ams AG (Austria). Other players operating in the market are Analog Devices (U.S), Fairchild (U.S), Toshiba (Japan), Microchip Technology (U.S), ON Semiconductor (U.S), among others.
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